Good Literature as Therapy and More

Reading good books nourishes the soul and mind. It strengthens us emotionally and intellectually.  It gives us ideas and characters to think about and learn from.  Good stories fill the imagination and crowd out petulance and worry, selfishness and hamster wheel cycles of unsolvable worries.  They give us mental vacations from our problems and at the same time, tools that can help us deal with those problems.

Another value of all good literature is in cultivating within us the ability to see other perspectives, developing the imagination that allows to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes.

If you cannot accurately and fairly and humanely lay out the position of those you disagree with, you don’t really have a position of your own, but rather, a caricature of yourself as well as others. Shakespeare and other great literature is at its best not when we nod to ourselves smugly and say ‘yes, he says exactly what I think,’ but when it surprises us and we think, “Oh. I never thought of it that way before.”


But mostly, good stories are worth reading because we are humans and good stories are good stories.  It’s axiomatic but also true.

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  1. Frances
    Posted September 24, 2019 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Could I ask for a few titles you feel qualify?

  2. Headmistress
    Posted September 25, 2019 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    All good books. Well written fiction of any and every sort. Sometimes the book we need the most will be Disturbing (Deerskin by Robin McKinley, Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde) and sometimes it will be a comedy of manners like Jane Austen. Sometimes it will be rereading old favourites from childhood like Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, The Little Princess, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, and sometimes it will be something more modern and less charming- The Purple HIbiscus, or Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tángere.

  3. Frances
    Posted September 25, 2019 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Well, Deerskin was shattering. Haven’t read Dorian Gray for decades. Did read Purple Hibiscus but think I may have it confused in memory with a couple of others of similar theme.

    Re-read Little House series quite recently. Long Winter is a favorite (such a blessings-counter when the snow moves in). Yes to A Little Princess. Persuasion is in the offing.

    Never could get along with Green Gables, I’m afraid.

    Don’t know Roll of Thunder or Noli Mi Tangere – will check them out, thank you.

    Recent re-reads: I Shall Wear Midnight (Pratchett) and perpetual favorite Jinian Footseer (Tepper).

    Reading now: Coromandel Sea Change by Rumer Godden.

    • Headmistress
      Posted September 25, 2019 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      I think some books are the right books only if they are read at the right time. Deerskin was shattering for me, too, but in a good way that broke the hard shell of some grief that needed to be broken. It was therapeutic and cathartic. But I never want to read it again.
      You will probably love Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. Not sure about Noli Mi, it’s the national PHilippino novel, and it’s quite sad.
      I have never heard of Jinian Footseer. Adore Pratchett.
      You might enjoy Elizabeth Goudge and D.E. Stevenson, if you haven’t already. And Angela Thirkell.

  4. Frances
    Posted September 25, 2019 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Oh, yes, Goudge – I so love The Dean’s Watch for just one, and that Nativity in The Scent of Water!

    Stevenson – I really like Mrs Tim. For some reason she puts me in mind of the Provincial Lady. And Thirkell, of course – I have Jutland Cottage for my current intermittent bathroom entertainment, and belong to a discussion list.

    Jinian Footseer is the seventh book of the True Game series, but stands alone pretty well. But if you don’t care for Sheri Tepper (many don’t) you should probably avoid it.

    I mourn her and Sir Pterry!

    Do you know Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven?

    • Headmistress
      Posted September 27, 2019 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know Sherri Tepper at all. I have read and loved one Kingsolver, and read and disliked another, but I don’t think either of them are the titles you mention.
      Here’s where I guess I confess I like Trollope, too.

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